Friday, May 3, 2013

Charlotte the Contender vs. Atlanta the Exceptional?

I confess I am biased toward North Carolina. My mom went to school there, at A & T when higher education opportunities for African American women were miniscule. My dad helped send Rev. Jesse Jackson to A & T. Watching ACC basketball was not a small factor in choosing Duke. Research Triangle Park, former Governor Terry Sanford, summers during high school at Bennett College all leave me favorably predisposed toward North Carolina.

But I heard the siren song of Atlanta early, too.  Daddy went to grad school at AU.  We rode the train from Greenville to visit him, stayed and ate at Paschals.  It was magical.  Greenville is half-way between Atlanta and Charlotte, just about the way my heart is torn between the two cities.

It is not surprising that I agree with a recent article touting Charlotte’s rise as a national political power. I joke with my elected official friends in Atlanta. “How can you scare a Georgia politician? Mention Charlotte.” All humor is based on a whacked out version of truth. North Carolina has embraced its HBCU’s. Nobody talks about consolidating A & T or Johnson C. Smith. North Carolina built the Research Triangle Park, linking and leveraging the power of North Carolina State, Duke and Chapel Hill. North Carolina has terrible roads and great schools. Georgia has great roads and terrible schools.

North Carolina has dedicated funding for mass transit. Georgians just defeated the TSPLOST, delaying or perhaps killing realistic options for saner transportation across Metro Atlanta. Now Anthony Foxx is going to run DOT for President Obama and Mel Watt is tapped for a national housing post. North Carolina is gaining clout and recognition because its voters reject knee-jerk reactions in favor of common sense bi-partisan solutions.

It is hard to disagree with the article’s conclusion that “Charlotte has in fact become, for now, a political power center in the state of North Carolina and maybe in the Southeast.” Last night, as Ingrid Saunders Jones gave the first of many closing statements of her storied career at The Coca-Cola Company, she advised a stellar crowd to be intentional about preserving what is exceptional about Atlanta. I couldn’t agree more.


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